Archers in the American Revolution

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by GameBawesome, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. GameBawesome Well-Known Member

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    I was reading an article recently, about how Benjamin Franklin had an idea of using longbows and pikes as alternative to muskets, due to the limited production of the Colonies. It never came to be.

    So what if the Military decided to form an Archer company?

    In 1776, the Archer company is started, and by 1778, they are fully trained, armed with Longbows.

    So what do they do now? Could they be use for guerrilla attacks?
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
  2. Atterdag Well-Known Member

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    They'd be less effective than native auxillaries, since they wouldn't have the same experience of woodsmanship. They'd be an interesting historical footnote and probably DLC unit in Total War: Empire.
     
  3. dandan_noodles Well-Known Member

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    They'd be considerably less effective than men with firearms, owing to the lesser range and deadliness of their weapon.
     
  4. darthfanta Offline

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    They just don’t have the level of training required to be as deadly with the longbows.
     
  5. Riain Well-Known Member

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    This.

    Iirc in terms of range, rate of fire and killing power the longbow had it all over the typical firearm of 1776. However the longbow took a lifetime of practice to master, which was the only skill level sufficient for employment in the English army back in the day. A musket was easier to learn to a useful standard, making it a more suitable weapon all things considered.
     
  6. perdu42 Well-Known Member

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  7. dandan_noodles Well-Known Member

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    Not really. During the 16th century, archers were routinely outraged by troops armed with guns, and gunshot wounds were immensely more lethal than arrows; the disparity only became greater by the American revolution.
     
  8. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    Native Americans (who had bows and were skilled in archery) also preffered muskets over bows, despite fact, that Europeans were selling them musket and gunpowder of low quality. So lack of training is not the main problem there. Musket is simply better weapon than bow.
     
  9. Fabius Maximus Unus qui nobis cunctando restituit rem

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    Yes, there were several battles where archers were outranged by guns, and none that I can recall where the opposite occurred.

    Also, I'd question the "longbows took a lifetime of practice to learn" meme. Maybe it would take a lifetime of practice to become a really good, top-level archer, but you don't need to be at that level to be useful militarily, and expect that for most people regular training was more about making sure they didn't lose the skills they already possessed than about anything else. And whilst firing a longbow requires more upper body strength, the actual mechanics aren't as complicated as those for reloading and firing a musket.
     
  10. snerfuplz Liveral Fascist

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    It is also worth mentioning that one cannot attach a bayonet to a longbow which means archers are far more vulnerable to cavalry.

    On a side note the longbow drill did inspire some musket drills
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
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  11. Riain Well-Known Member

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    Lets be clear, Franklin was talking about the English Longbow used in the 100 years war and still in widespread use in 1542 when the Mary Rose sank with 137 on board. This bow was 6'+ long, draw weight in excess of 100lbs, combat range beginning at 350 yards, 30" arrows drawn to the ear by men who grew bone spurs on their backs, wrists and fingers from the effort. Battles where English archers fought would routinely expend one million arrows, firing up to 7 shots per minute at times.

    Is this what people are talking about when they say 'bow', or hunting bows of half this power and range?
     
  12. Gwen Well-Known Member

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    Hi all,

    For what it's worth ...
    One of the main characteristics of a bow (long, short, or composite) is pull weight. Another thing to consider is that, for pulling, one uses mainly the long muscles of one's back, which are underused in about any other activity. The greatest difficulty of learning to draw a bow is not the mechanics, but the building up of that muscular mass.
    A training bow in the 25 pounds range can be pulled by about anybody, teenagers included.
    A hunting bow in the 40-50 pounds range ? Most people would not be able to pull one properly, if at all. Needs at least months, more likely a couple years of regular training to build up the muscles for a proper draw, and that only give you the most basic of capability for skirmishers.
    A war bow in the 80-100 pounds range ? Nobody can draw that, unless they're longbowmen themselves, or Conan the barbarian. And by that, I mean if they tried, the string would barely move. Takes even more years of training to pull it off.
    Worth noting also is that one cannot just issue war bows to troopers, and tell them to train : they can't draw the bows at all. They need to start with training bows to learn the form, then progressively move up to heavier and heavier bows as they build up muscle mass.

    In contrast, just about any schmuck off the farm can learn to shoot a musket properly inside of 8 weeks.

    If you want archers for skirmishing in 1775, especially if you want them inside the next 5 years, much easier to hire Natives ...

    Regards,
    Gwen
     
  13. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

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    The only way i can see a one last hurrah pike and arrow coming in the American revolution is if, for whatever reason, one of the colonies had laws requiring every man 14 and up practicing with the longbow regularly.

    So given the time frame the only colonies i think would have such a law is Virginia or Massachusetts. Even still its not a law that will be strongly enforced as time goes on, if it even remains on the books at all by the time the revolution breaks out.
     
  14. dandan_noodles Well-Known Member

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    Yeah*, and almost everyone who actually fought with both English longbows and guns in the 16th century (Roger Williams, Robert Barrett, Barnabe Rich, Humphrey Barwick, etc.) recognized that guns were better.

    *Even the most powerful bows didn't have a combat range anywhere close to 350m; it was a very rare shooter who could even reach 200m, and the bow as only useful against area targets at that distance. Also, it's kinda sloppy to assume the Mary Rose bows are interchangeable with those of the Hundred Years War from nearly a century beforehand, but that's neither here nor there. A couple days before the Mary Rose sank, French gunners under Blaize de Montluc defeated a force of English longbowmen with the superior range of their guns.
     
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  15. Fabius Maximus Unus qui nobis cunctando restituit rem

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    I mean, if the problem was just that bows took too long to train, we'd expect to see crossbows become dominant, since those had an equal or higher range to longbows but didn't require long periods of training or exceptional upper-body strength to operate.
     
  16. snerfuplz Liveral Fascist

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    From my understanding longbows were more effective until heavier armor reduced the longbows penetration while crossbow improvements allowed for greater armor penetration. Of course firearms had better armor penetration than crossbows
     
  17. Tripledot Well-Known Member

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    Crossbows, especially ones as powerful as longbows, took a long time to load. But expert crossbowmen were sought out and paid more than longbowmen for their services, despite the disadvantage in firing rate.
     
  18. Jan Olbracht Well-Known Member

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    Powerful strongbows were also expensive to make.
     
  19. dandan_noodles Well-Known Member

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    Moreover, since longbowmen were recruited by just hiring men who had trained themselves on their own time at no cost to the state, this practice could have continued parallel to the recruitment and training of musketeers. Indeed, the archers would actually be cheaper, since they were combat effective from the moment they began drawing wages unlike musketeers. If the longbow really was as superior as armchair generals now think it was, they could have formed elite, special units for decisive battles even if they couldn't provide the bulk of armies. In actuality, even archers trained and equipped essentially for free were still not worth the cost compared to musketeers equipped and trained at great expense to the state.
     
  20. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

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    We are talking about muskets, correct? I've seen numerous discussions of musket and ACW rifle effective aimed fire as less than 200 meters. Are you speaking of muskets or artillery?